Confronting Bias

Issues of race have hindered students’ access to an excellent education. Gould (1981) pointed out that racism has been around as long as “recorded human history,” (p. 31) however it has only been in recent history that there has been a biological justification by scientists that attempted to make an argument that people of color are biologically inferior. This shows that there was ‘proof’ for racism that the scholar community provided. Even President Lincoln, who had respect for freedmen who fought in the Civil War, believed that “freedom does not imply biological equality” (Gould, 1981, p. 35). These beliefs, held by historically respected academics and leaders, are sure to have been passed on to many in society, both the educated and non. Therefore, we can infer that minority groups have been long viewed as not deserving of an excellent education.

Gould (1981) described that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that “arguments did not contrast equality with inequality” (p. 31). With that, we can see that equality and access are fairly new concepts. So, as a teacher who got into teaching to serve students of color who are mostly poor, I questioned, are educators concerned about making equality a priority? What can we do to ensure that educators are concerned about this? Garcia and Ortiz (2013) made it clear that educators need to think about students’ cultural context in order to make the right decisions for them, especially students with disabilities, but unfortunately do not. Instead, “researchers and practitioners tend to locate the source of achievement and behavioral difficulties within students, without examining performance in the context of teaching and learning environments in which that performance occurs” (Garcia & Ortiz, 2013, p. 38). As Howard (2003) made it clear that our future teaching force will continue to be mostly middle class women and that our student population will increasingly be low income students of color, it is important that our educators confront their biases in order to ensure that every decision we make is in students’ best interest.

The idea of educators confronting biases in order to be culturally relevant practitioners is something that must be made a priority.   As the EdD “focuses on preparing practitioners…who can use existing knowledge to solve educational problems” (Shulman, Golde, Bueschel, & Garabedian, 2006, p. 26), I cannot begin to use this degree to solve the problem of early literacy for low-income students without examining the context that many of my students are living and learning in. For example, are they given the proper support at home? If not, are the schools supporting the parents with strategies to increase their children’s literacy? Last, are educators providing the right methodologies and interventions that respect the cultural context of their students? It seems unlikely that educators are currently making unbiased decisions with their students or even trying to. For example, in the study conducted by Paufler and Amrein-Beardsley (2013), the majority of principals were against randomly assigning students to classes, meaning that teachers and principals make those decisions. This means that students will undoubtedly be grouped based on many subjective factors, which will surely be somewhat biased.

Therefore, in thinking about my own research in investigating the best ways to teach students how to read, I will need to consider how and why students were grouped. I will need to consider their educational settings, such as Special Education (SPED) inclusion, English Language Development (ELD), cluster (gifted), heterogeneous, homogenous, etc. and the rationale for putting students into those settings. Lastly, I will need to look at the training and beliefs of the teacher to get a sense of why they are implementing certain instructional strategies. Overall, this week’s readings made me see that action research must consider the culture of students in order to actually make change.


Garcia, S. B., & Ortiz, A. A. (2013). Intersectionality as a Framework for Transformative Research in Special Education. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2), 32–47.

Gould, S. (1981). The Mismeasure of Man. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.

Howard, T. C. (2003). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for Critical Teacher Reflection. Teacher Reflection and Race in Cultural Contexts, 42(3), 195–202.

Paufler, N. A., & Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2013). The Random Assignment of Students Into Elementary Classrooms: Implications for Value-Added Analyses and Interpretations. American Educational Research Journal, 51(2), 328–362. doi:10.3102/0002831213508299

Shulman, L. S., Golde, C. M., Bueschel, A. C., & Garabedian, K. J. (2006). Reclaiming Education’s Doctorates: A Critique and a Proposal. Educational Researcher, 35(3), 25–32. doi:10.3102/0013189X035003025

Best Practices for Researchers – Be(a)ware of Yourself!

The readings for this week seem designed to initiate us to the reflexive, multi-faceted look at educational practice that our program aims to inculcate in us.  I strongly agree with this approach. I applied to this program so that I can be a better teacher – more reflexive, more culturally sensitive, and better educated about best practices and how to design and assess innovations.  In Intersectionality as a Framework for Transformative Research in Special Education by Garcia and Ortiz (2013), they write “…educational questions beg to be conceptualized and analyzed through more than one axis” and “…categories of difference are dynamic and produced by the interaction of individual and institutional factors.”   To help students be successful will take acknowledgement of various intersecting aspects of their culture and abilities.  Designing a curriculum and/or a program to help students will take consideration of multiple factors such as race, generational cohort, familiarity with college environment, language acquisition, and institutional assumptions.  That suggests to me that a cookie-cutter approach to designing a program or teaching a class will not suffice.  That is why I don’t want to simply copy a program or syllabus from another college or teacher; I want to learn more about the intricacies and intersection of factors that can lead to student success.

In addition, I will need to continue developing awareness about how my language, instructional practices, grading practices, and casual interactions with my diverse community college students might influence them.  In Culturally Relevant Pedagogy by Howard (2001), I read that “reflection is never-ending” and “teaching is not a neutral act.”  Howard’s proposal that pre-service teachers need to engage in on-going reflection is consistent with training for counselors.  As a graduate student in counseling, my training included written and guided reflection with a supervisor after each encounter with a client in my counseling practicum.  Years later when I was supervising interns in clinical practice, I continued the process of written and verbal reflection with my interns.  In order to come up with a thoughtful treatment plan for each client, interns examined what they knew about a client, we uncovered and challenged assumptions, and examined possible approaches and potential outcomes for dealing with each individual.  Like education, therapy is not a neutral act and calls for continual reflection.  Because culture continues to evolve, so does theory and best practices.

As evidenced by the chapter from Gould’s 1981 publication of the Mismeasure of Man, as scientific observation/tools become more sophisticated, ideas will evolve and there will be missteps as scientists attempt to provide reasonable theories to support new evidence.  However, there is the danger that the questions asked and the data examined will unconsciously support the prejudices of the one asking and looking which is how Gould explains the seemingly scientific data gathered by Morton that supported a theory of racial hierarchy based on skull size.  Gould writes that he re-examined Morton’s data and describes the seemingly unconscious mistakes Morton made.  I believe contemporary practitioners have the same danger of seeing data through the lens of our biases which is why I am devoted to the practice of on-going reflection, being as transparent as I can, and discussing with others in hopes of minimizing my unconscious biases.

Reclaiming Education’s Doctorates by Shulman et al (2006) presented a history of doctorates in education of which I was unaware.  I read about the Carnegie Initiative when I was exploring doctoral programs and the ASU Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College commitment to action research for practitioners was part of the draw to this program for me.

Finally, I have questions about Value-Added Measures from the The random assignment of students into elementary classrooms by Paufler and Amrein-Beardsley (2013) article.  I look forward to Dr. Beardsley’s visit to our class this week so that I can gain a better understanding of her work.


Garcia, S.B. & Ortiz, A.A. (2013).  Intersectionality as a framework for transformative research in special education.  Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2), 32-47.

Gould, S.J. (1981).  The mismeasure of man.  New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

Howard, T.C. (2003).  Culturally Relevant pedagogy:  Ingredients for critical teacher reflection, 42(3), 195-202.

Paufler, N.A. & Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2013). The random assignment of students into elementary classrooms: Implications for value-added analyses and interpretations.  American Education Research Journal, 51(2), 328-362.

Shulman, L.S., Golde, C.M., Conklin Bueschel, A., & Kristen, J. (2006).  Reclaiming education’s doctorates:  A Critique and a proposal.  Educational Researcher, 35(25), 25-32.